Christians today live in a time of great light. The Holy Spirit has revealed to us the meaning of Jesus' powerful work on the cross and the incredible blessings of His sacrifice. Yet there was a time known as the Dark Ages when Christ's wonderful work was obscured from the world.
Most sermons during the Dark Ages focused on damnation and God's wrath. The popes and priests preached a gospel of works and the people performed a variety of deeds to try to find peace with God. They traveled for miles to bow to shrines, knelt in worship before stone icons, repeated long prayers, fondled prayer beads. Yet all these things only increased their bondage and brought deeper darkness to their souls.
People then knew nothing of the benefits and blessings available through Christ's victory at Calvary. Even today, with all the teaching available on the subject, the majority of Christians still do not understand many important aspects of Christ's work for us, that is, what it means to be "in Christ."
As a shepherd of the Lord's flock, I occasionally preach on hell, damnation and God's wrath. But more and more I have become convinced that the only way I can lead God's people to victorious living is to preach the blessings and benefits of "being in Christ."
The fact is, being in Christ is the only foundation upon which true holiness and righteousness can be built. Without this foundation, we will rely on our flesh to try to produce a form of holiness in ourselves. But true holiness is obtained only through knowing the riches of God in Christ Jesus.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). Only God's grace can teach us the kind of theology that leads to holiness—and no works can ever produce that.